An embarrassing ‘Scoop’ for EC

Even before the Election Commission could announce the poll date for Karnataka at a press conference on Tuesday, the “National Head, Information and Technology” wing of the BJP made a ‘scoop’ by first announcing the date himself, leaving the poll body red faced. The CEC has, of course, assured that a thorough inquiry would be held into the matter and the poll body “will take stringent legal and administrative action.’’ Coming close on the heels of the Delhi High Court striking down the EC order disqualifying 20 Aam Admi Party legislators of Delhi, this would be another embarrassment for the constitutional body which is supposed to conduct elections fairly, impartially and without allowing itself to be influenced by any political party.
The BJP IT wing’s head announcing the poll date ahead of the EC will suggest that the date was fixed by the Central Government and communicated to the EC for announcement. The ruling party’s IT head knew it beforehand and announced it, without knowing that the EC was yet to make the formal announcement. He later deleted his Tweet but by then the damage had been done. In the prevailing circumstances, an ‘inquiry’ into the leak and ‘stringent legal and administrative action’ may eventually result in a petty clerk or a lower level officer being punished to save the precious face of the EC.
The Election Commission has failed again and again in preventing muscle power and money being used to influence elections. The poll body usually shows a marked reluctance to take action against the ruling party and its candidates when complaints against them are made by candidates of other parties. A former CEC, T. N. Seshan, made the EC a fiercely independent body. He used to say that the Election Commission of India is not the Election Commission of the Government of India but an independent body. Those days have passed into history.
The EC has already dented its reputation as an independent body. Last year, during the assembly elections in Rajasthan and Gujarat, instead of announcing the dates for the two States simultaneously, the poll body chose to delay the announcement of the Gujarat elections by a few days, obviously to enable the Prime Minister to announce some more welfare schemes which he could not have done if the Gujarat poll schedule were to be announced along with that of Rajasthan. In the event, the BJP’s strength came down to below 100.

Tuesday, 3 April, 2018